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Good reasons why IT pros should sharpen their skills


It has been said that it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. But when it comes to staying professionally competitive, it behooves even the most adamant IT pros to sharpen their skills. Successful IT organisations know that their strength hinges on a well trained staff, regardless of age. Therefore, they seek to employ those whose skill sets are up to date and those who invest in skills improvement.

Old pros, new skills
Anecdotally speaking, it’s understood that as we age, we get a bit more complacent. In other words, old dogs tend to get set in their ways.

But they’re not to blame. All our lives we’ve been told that wisdom comes with age. In our youth, we looked up to our elders. Now that some of us are elders (or getting there), we relish the opportunity to share our sage learnings, beginning conversations with “Back in my day…” or “When I was your age….”

However, remaining too past- or present-focused will only hold you back in your career. Today’s most successful IT professionals, regardless of age, are actively pursuing new skills—and not just for the boost in title or salary.

Reasons to be optimistic
Given the recent economic past, it’s reassuring to learn that current IT salaries are on the rise. According to a Global Knowledge survey, respondents reported that their average salaries increased by 6.2 percent from 2011 [1]. Additionally, about two-thirds received a raise—up from only 54 percent last year. And things are looking even rosier for IT pros. A recent Dice.com report finds that demand for technology professionals is expected to grow, making your skills worth even more [2].

While you may be patting yourself on the back for successfully weathering the storm, you shouldn’t retreat to your laurels. Job security is earned. Now is the perfect time to make improvements that will cement your worth and grow your skill set. Among the obvious reasons why you should learn a new trick or two is a less obvious one: professional satisfaction.

Job satisfaction and job security go hand-in-hand
There is a relationship between one’s training, their salary and their sense of professional satisfaction. What might surprise some is that this relationship is not purely a function of pay. As it turns out, humans can’t (typically) achieve happiness and professional fulfillment based on pay alone.

The Global Knowledge report showed that in late 2009 and early 2010, the IT community hit an all-time low in job satisfaction when only four percent of survey respondents claimed they felt highly engaged in their careers. Today, things are looking up; 60 percent of survey respondents report being satisfied or very satisfied. Perceived job security, not surprisingly, plays a critical role in one’s sense of job satisfaction. And this year, of those who felt secure in their positions, 70 percent felt satisfied.

One particular item in the Global Knowledge report is worth noting. Those who reported feeling secure in their positions tended to have one factor in common: They had earned a certification within the last five years.

Technology continues to evolve—do you?
Technology evolves at a breakneck pace, creating a need for on-going training. Imagine you’ve been seeing the same dentist for decades. He graduated dental school top of his class—in 1969. So much has changed since then—but have his practices? What if he had never invested in on-going education classes? Or never adapted to industry improvements? Would you trust your teeth to an old-school dentist?

These same principles apply in technology; if you don’t stay up to date on the latest industry trends, don’t expect your skills to remain in demand indefinitely. Still need persuading? Consider this: Training positively affects salaries. Those who trained in the prior year earned an average of 8.6 percent more than those who didn’t. Not a bad return on your career-improvement investment.

Why do it?
Training takes more than just time and money—it takes energy and career drive. It takes a mission. Investing in your professional success is well worth it, with research proving that building new skills equals higher pay, higher relevance and most importantly, higher job satisfaction.

Plus, the proof is in the pudding. More than half of IT managers say that following a certification, their staff was more effective on the job. Now that deserves a pat on the back.

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